Woman questioned over Kirsty Bentley murder wants to change her evidence
A woman interviewed 17 years ago in relation to the unsolved murder of Ashburton teen Kirsty Bentley says she would now change her statement, if asked by police.
Her claims suggest there could be a further possible line of inquiry in the ongoing investigation into the cold case.
Kirsty, 15, went missing walking her dog along the Ashburton riverbank on New Year's Eve 1998. Her body was found weeks later.
A Christchurch woman, who could not be identified for legal reasons, said she and her ex-partner were interviewed a number of times following the teen's death.
Her partner's vehicle had been of interest to police at the time.
After Kirsty's body was found in the Rakaia Gorge, 60 kilometres from Ashburton, the woman and her ex-partner moved out of the area.
The man later said he had moved to get away from police harassing him.
At the time police confirmed they had taken a DNA sample from his vehicle for testing.
The man's ex-partner said she always had concerns regarding his involvement.
If interviewed by police again, she said she would change her original statement.
"I didn't have anything to tell them back then. Things that they had asked me, because I had not been with him that long, I would say no to," she said.
"If they asked me those questions again I suppose I would have different answers."
When Kirsty's body was found, the day before her 16th birthday, she was lying in a foetal position, covered in branches, with her shoes still on.
The woman said when her ex-partner drank he had joked about how he killed Kirsty.
Other times he would deny any involvement.
"He used to say it jokingly, well, I suspect it was jokingly, when he was drunk."
In 2004 she became concerned he knew more than he had let on, she said.
He knew specific details she didn't think were public, she said.
When she questioned him on how he knew things about the case, he said the police had told him.
"I would like to know if they ever did tell him," she said.
"I remember that conversation. It's a conversation that has always stuck in my head."
Checks reveal that some details mentioned had in fact been reported by the news media.
After watching a documentary about Kirsty in 2010, she said she contacted Detective Greg Williams, who was in charge of the case at the time.
She relayed the conversation she had with her ex-partner to him, but felt like he wasn't listening to her, she said.
"I did say to him, 'all those questions you asked me years ago, if you asked me those questions today, I would change to yes he has, yes he has, and yes he has. Back then it was no, no, no..."
While she did not know who killed Kirsty, she felt that if police asked her the same questions now, her answers would be quite different.
The woman said she had little contact with her ex partner and was not creating a story to get back at him.
"It's not at all about malice. I haven't been with him for 10 years," she said,
Detective Inspector Greg Murton, who took over the case last year, confirmed the man had been investigated soon after the murder.
Murton would not comment on the woman's allegations.
"He was investigated at the time. I haven't read all the details about the investigation. There are tens of thousands of documents on this file," he said.
"All I know was that he was investigated."
Although nobody had come forward with new information recently, Murton said DNA testing was still being run.
He did not say if the evidence collected from the man's vehicle was being tested.
"There are a couple of inquiries we are following up in terms of nominated suspects. You have got to remember that this investigation had a massive team on it for well over a year," he said.
"Hundreds of suspects were looked at. It's now 17 years later, new information does come in but most of the dedicated leg work was done in the original inquiry."
Murton said the woman, and anyone else, was more than welcome to contact him with new information.
The woman said she had since the murder often seen Kirsty's father, Sid Bentley, walking down the street.
"I used to walk past him sometimes in Ashburton. I always wanted to say something to him, but never did," she said.
Bentley, 64, died last week of cancer. A suspect in his daughter's 1998 disappearance and murder, he had always denied any involvement.